Several years ago, a childhood friend of mine called to ask me if I thought he was “cool” during elementary, middle, and high school. (It seems that famous, attractive, intelligent, humorous people have self doubts like everyone else.) I didn’t have to think about my answer, which was a definitive “Yes!” to which he replied, “How can you be so sure?” I then remarked that I knew he was cool because I am über cool and thus, I would have been friends with him only if he were cool! Being friends with uncool people is not for me; never has been and never will be! Humor aside, the meaning of “cool” is different for different people, such that my definition of cool might not be the same as your definition of cool. However, there are some widely accepted definitions of “cool,” such as excellent, very good, all right, hip, free from tension and violence, etc., in addition to the use of the word to describe temperature or a person’s aloof demeanor. For me, being cool means being an agreeable person, living harmoniously with others, giving of oneself more than taking from others, and, in general, being in the groove (whatever one’s groove may be). I believe it is not possible to be cool while doing uncool things. A recent experience, has, as usual, prompted this post. David and I were in the presence of some people whom I perceived as having a high opinion of themselves, including attempting to convey how cool they are to the others who were present. There were a lot of comparisons among these individuals about how many times they had seen certain bands in concert, the amazing international places they have visited, the expensive cruises they have taken and plan to take, etc. As off putting as this type of conversation is to me, what really bothered me was that these conversations were taking place in an uncool situation, a situation where none of us, including me, had a right to be. I won’t name the situation, to protect the guilty, but I will provide some examples of uncool things that, in my opinion, cancel out the cool factor in everyone: looking down on someone of a race, ethnicity, or religion different from one’s own; making fun of a senior citizen who “just doesn’t get it” as fast as he/she used to; parking in a space reserved for disabled people when there is no disabled person in the car because it’s more convenient than parking elsewhere; not helping a friend in need because it’s too much trouble, time consuming, and not fun; and bullying someone who is unable to defend himself/herself due to a particular vulnerability. In the uncool situation in which I found myself, I became so upset that I was unable to enjoy the festivities to which I had been invited; the people who perceived themselves to be cool were, to me, anything but cool. I left as soon as I could and I will take a long, hard look at future situations that will compromise my cool groove. For me, being cool is more than displaying a peace sign as a greeting; it is a way of life to which I am committed. Cool!
Cool should mean more than being in the “in crowd.” And, Melissa’s definitions are beyond that. Being tolerant, being understanding, celebrating things that bring joy and happiness are among other aspects of this. Standing up for others – i.e., being a “stand up person” by standing up to injustice fits here as well. Cool often involves art, music, architecture, or things where imagination took hold and created something new, different, exciting, reflective or powerful. I have, we have, experienced many sights and sounds and walked away saying “that was cool.” The things Melissa described are decidedly uncool. Those who are truly cool don’t have to tell anyone; we know who they are. It is a sense of confidence, at least projected confidence, even if it is not internalized. It is seeing something creative, unique or different (e.g., David Byrne’s interpretation of a rock concert). Trying to project cool by showing off possessions (examples recently encountered on a wanna’ be cool person include an expensive watch and car). Cool people don’t need those things to make them cool. Heck, James Dean was cool in a white T-shirt. No need for designer clothes when you are cool. We’ve observed attorneys trying to project an image of cool by pretending to be something they were not – like the attorney who wore NEW cowboy boots to a trial in a small, rural city. Better to be comfortable with who you are, than to be a poser. This is a truism in all facets of life.